CHARLOTTE, NC, January 1, 2018 – Politics aside, one of the few things the United Nations has done well since its inception, at least from the perspective of those who love to travel, is to establish UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.
Globetrotters have come to recognize that any destination, natural phenomena or historic site with the blessing of UNESCO is worth a visit.
A UNESCO landmark a bucket list destination
Not that the internal workings of the agency are pristine and without political wrangling, but purely from the standpoint of an educational/cultural experience, if a landmark has UNESCO approval, it is guaranteed to be counted among your traveling treasures and a great world landmark.
Therefore, when two key members of the organization formally announce they are withdrawing from the program, it diminishes the goals and standards of the agency. Joining the United States, Israel also formally notified UNESCO in late October that it will no longer participate as of December 31, 2018.
The U.S. already announced the same departure date earlier in the month of October.
U.S. has ceased UN funding
Though seen as largely symbolic by many observers, the United States has already ceased its funding of the organization which amounted to 22% of the budget.
Both countries have expressed grievances that the Paris-based U.N. agency has failed in efforts to reform, citing a “continuing anti-Israel bias” among other things.
Among the concerns include 46 resolutions against Israel that were adopted between 2009-2014. During that same period, there was 1 resolution against Syria and none leveled at Iran, Sudan, North Korea or any other country in the world.
UNESCO denies Jewish culture to its peril
In addition, UNESCO repeatedly denies Jewish culture in Jerusalem and Hebron while Palestine was declared a World Heritage site in 2017.
In another example, UNESCO elected the Assad regime in Syria to its human rights committee in 2011. Expressing outrage at the decision, the UN Watch launched an unsuccessful protest campaign to have Syria removed.
Two years later, in 2013, UNESCO enshrined “The Life and Works of Ernesto Che Guevera” in its “Memory of the World Register.” Guevera was the leader of the first firing squads of the Cuban Revolution and was also the founder of Cuba’s labor camp system.
Then US President Barack Obama demanded that the UNESCO program “not be used as a tool to glorify or legitimize violence.”
Obama was ignored.
Reagan pulled out of UNESCO in 1984
Withdrawing from UNESCO is not without precedent for the United States. Ronald Reagan pulled out in 1984, but President George W. Bush reinstated the country in 2002.
The World Heritage program is a core mission for UNESCO which has grown considerably in its status in recent years in terms of protecting historic and cultural sites.
Trump Administration, the U.N. and UNESCO
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, has been a major critic of the world organization which has likewise received considerable skepticism from the Trump administration.
President Trump added further fuel to the dispute on December 6, 2017 when he made a historic announcement that the United States would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel rather than Tel Aviv.
According to the Associated Press, Israel has been angered by UNESCO resolutions which have diminished Israel’s historical connection to the Holy Land while also referring to some ancient Jewish sites as Palestinian heritage sites without recognizing Jewish associations to the same locations
UNESCO distorts Jewish history
Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu has decried UNESCO’s effort as being “theater of the absurd because instead of preserving history, it distorts it.”
Though the UNESCO mission to promote education, science, and culture is admirable, many insiders report that the agency has been hijacked by internal dictatorships.
One of the key sites in question is the Western Wall, a remnant of the biblical temple and the holiest place where Jews can pray. According to the resolution titled “Occupied Palestine”, only the Islamic name for the compound is used, even though the hilltop is sacred for both Jews and Muslims.
Jews refer to the compound in Jerusalem’s Old City as the Temple Mount. Muslims call it al-Haram al-Sharif which is Arabic for the Noble Sanctuary.
The Al-Aqsa mosque and the golden Dome of the Rock is said to be the location where Muhammad ascended into heaven, thus making it the third holiest site in Islam behind Mecca and Medina.
On the other hand, the Temple Mount is regarded as the holiest site in Judaism.
Paraphrasing Benjamin Netanyahu’s sentiments, the Israeli ambassador to UNESCO, Carmel Shama-Hacohen, stated,
“This noble organization was established to preserve history, not rewrite it.”
Adding to the controversy is Israel’s longstanding dispute to grant visas to UNESCO officials so they can inspect holy sites in Jerusalem to determine whether their level of preparation is suitable.
And so the war of words continues on many levels throughout the Middle East. Perhaps a solution will be found somewhere beneath the dunes of sand and rock that have layered the region’s history for centuries.
Meanwhile, globetrotters should continue to savor the natural and man-made wonders of the world as endorsed by UNESCO and leave the back-stabbing nuances of politics for someone else.
About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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